Talking to the CEO

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By Andy Smith

Whenever I ask business people to share advice or lessons learned from new project or process implementations, the most common response I hear is “get buy in from the top. When senior leadership is onboard and champions change, it is more likely to be successful. In truth, buy in needs to happen both from the top down and the bottom up. When the entire organization is aligned towards a common goal, and people are willing to commit resources and contribute expertise, progress is more efficiently achieved.

As pharma marketers explore integrating digital marketing channels into the marketing mix, and embrace new opportunities to engage customers, partners, physicians and patients via social media, they need an effective communication strategy for talking to senior leaders – especially the CEO. This recent blog post notes “pharma CEOs need to start engaging with their own marketing people, listening to their strategies and their concerns, and give them the support they need to execute innovative digital campaigns and ongoing social media programs.

How can marketers engage more effectively with the CEO? They need to master the ability to speak the same language as the rest of the business. They need to talk to the CEO in a way that helps him or her understand the benefits of social media and digital marketing in the context of the business.

The language of the boardroom is finance. Marketers need to go beyond defining the market opportunity and the benefits of engagement, increasing awareness and user reach. Social media is a real -time trend, but the question every CEO wants answered is “what is the return on investment? CEOs want this information shared during senior management meetings and want it reflected in the annual report. Money permeates every discussion whether it is about the performance of a department, strategy or where to invest precious resources. Marketers need to be able to make sense of the dollar and resource investment and illustrate projected returns when the issue of “show me the money is raised.

Mitigating risk is a key concern. Its essential for marketers to be fluent in changing FDA regulations and similar corporate governance issues. When talking to senior leadership, marketers need to be able to demonstrate how they plan to share promotional or health content while remaining in compliance within regulatory limitations.

Developing a love of numbers is critical. Whether it is market share, time to market or inventory turnover -all these things can be expressed in numbers. Back to an earlier point, if you can convert these numbers to dollars, youre again speaking in the universal business language: money. For example, a medical device company could report that their customer conversion rate following a social media campaign is three percent using a number alone. However, that number can be made more powerful when converted to dollars, i.e. translating the percent of new customer purchases to the revenue impact to the company, and actual increased revenues.

Think like the CEO. Books by Steve Jobs and Jack Welsh provide excellent insight into how CEOS think and talk. Most CEOs expect people in their organization to think and act just like them. Sadly, when you shift your attention to social media and digital marketing, you find that almost no one talks and acts like a CEO. It is important in business to “walk the talk, but even when you cant you should at least be able to “talk the talk. Because CEOs, for the most part, are incredibly competitive people, be sure to illustrate how your digital strategy can support a winning outcome in every area of business competition.

Getting a digital strategy implemented requires having the right culture to be successful. As with any new initiative, that demands buy in from the very top and across the entire organizational supply chain. CEOs are powerful people who provide direction to everyone in the organization. When marketers can communicate the benefits of a digital strategy along with the bottom line value, theyll be able to move the needle on getting CEOs to listen and provide support around digital strategies and social media programs.

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One Response to Talking to the CEO

  1. alan says:

    These points also help me understand how payers think in the managed markets arena.